Whose Side Are You On, Charlie?

To update Lord Edward Grey’s comment on the eve of WWI, “The lamps are going out all over Trump’s America; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”  Yes, thanks to Trump, history seems to be repeating itself, I’m just not sure yet whether it’s tragedy or farce.  But the millions of Americans who are resisting Trump’s dark vision give me hope that the lamps can be relit.  Unfortunately, Republican Governor Charlie Baker is not one of them.

For two years, now, charming Charlie Baker has gotten along with nothing more than a shoeshine and a smile.  But Bay Staters are finally learning what this Governor is all about.  Last fall we soundly rejected both his school-privatizing/union-busting charter school agenda and his anti-marijuana stance.  Now, the stakes are higher, Charlie, and your smile is no substitute for a spine.

Beginning with our Four Freedoms March in Pittsfield on Jan. 7 and continuing with the Women’s March in Washington and this past weekend’s protests – both here and nationally – against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, Americans are showing they not only believe in FDR’s four freedoms – Freedom from Fear and Want; Freedom of Speech and Religion – they are willing to take to the streets to uphold them.  Not so our impeccable Governor.

While Baker is content to mumble something about sending Trump a brief detailing his “concerns” about his executive order on immigration, Senator Elizabeth Warren was at Logan Airport chanting with the protesters and calling Trump’s order “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” and declaring that “an attack on anyone for their religious beliefs is an attack on the very foundation of democracy.”  Further, she declared, “We will not turn away children.  We will not turn away families.  We will not turn away people who tried to help Americans.  We will not turn away anyone because of their religion.”

Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran from Salem, MA, said Trump’s executive order made him “ashamed [Trump] is our president” and that the Muslim ban was “fundamentally un-American.”  In doing so, he found a surprising ally in Bill Kristol, a prominent Republican and founder of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard.  In a tweet on Sunday Kristol said it was the Massachusetts Democrat spoke for him in opposing the ban, not GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like Baker mumbled some banalities and put party loyalty above our Constitution.

In another show of courage, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh flat out said he will “protect all Boston residents, even if that means using City Hall itself as a last resort.”

But Charlie’s unwillingness to stand up for America goes beyond Trump’s attack on immigrants.  This past Saturday night Trump issued an executive order giving Steve Bannon, his rumpled alt-right agitator, a full seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council – while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence.  Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, called the arrangement “Stone cold crazy.” And, further down the rabbit hole we go with no comment from Charlie.

Clearly, Charlie Baker is neither a federal official nor a profile in courage, but as the most prominent Republican in a state that had a major role in creating both the United States and our federal Constitution, one would hope he would find some way to speak up for the values we hold dear, as other conservatives, including Bill Kristol and even the oft-reviled Dick Cheney, are doing.

As the former Bush State Dept. official Elliott Cohen, said: “Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist”

Martin Niemöller, a Protestant theologian and outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler who spent seven years in concentration camps, put it this way:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

These times call for courage, Charlie.  Who are you speaking for?  Whose side are you on?

By Lee Harrison, Member, Democratic State Committee

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Sun 30 Apr 2:58 AM